William McGonagall

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William Topaz McGonagall (March 1825[1] – 29 September 1902) was a Scottish weaver and amateur poet and actor. He won notoriety as an extremely bad poet who exhibited no recognition of or concern for his peers' opinions of his work. He wrote some 200 poems, including the infamous "Tay Bridge Disaster", which are widely regarded as some of the worst in British history. Groups throughout Scotland engaged him to make recitations from his works; contemporary descriptions of these performances indicate that many of these listeners were appreciating McGonagall's skill as a comic music hall character, and as such his readings may be considered a form of performance art. Collections of his verse continue in popularity, with several volumes available today.

McGonagall has been acclaimed as the worst poet in British history. The chief criticisms of his poetry are that he is deaf to poetic metaphor and unable to scan correctly. In the hands of lesser artists, this might generate merely dull, uninspiring verse. However, McGonagall's fame stems from the humorous effects these shortcomings generate. The inappropriate rhythms, weak vocabulary, and ill-advised imagery combine to make his work amongst the most spontaneously amusing comic poetry in the English language. However, his is a long tradition of verses written and published about great events and tragedies, and widely circulated among the local population as handbills. In an age before radio and television, their voice was one way of communicating important news to an avid public.


Life and poetry

Although both born and dying in Greyfriars Parish, Edinburgh he is almost solely linked to Dundee. He was born to Irish parents in Edinburgh.

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